Connecting Disadvantaged Youth to Mentors through Soccer

Connecting Disadvantaged Youth to Mentors through Soccer

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Champions in Action connects the disadvantaged youth of Guatemala to mentors through soccer. The goal is to establish a long-term mentoring relationship that will promote positive change for the well being of these youth and their communities. The mentor serves as an advocate for their lives, focusing on holistic transformation psychologically, emotionally, economically, and spiritually. In a nation with a homicide rate that ranks higher than an average war zone, Guatemala is plagued with extreme violence. The mission is to reach a lost generation that will change the trajectory of their nation and ultimately, the world.

About Project

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Throughout Central America, there is no organization similar to Champions in Action. Many U.S. groups come for a week or two, but nothing permanent is left behind. Champions is designed to leverage the benefit of a bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Guatemalan teams to create an effective program with lasting impact. Champions unique advantage is the well-established network with Guatemalan churches (over 1,800 Prince of Peace Evangelical Church Association churches) that enables Champions to be sustainable with long-term mentoring relationships. It allows the organization to deeply penetrate any targeted city. Moreover, Champions’ network includes top government officials and prominent professional athletes in the U.S. and Guatemala. Professional soccer players and coaches have an unparalleled platform of influence. Youth aspiring to become athletes are open to advice given by these individuals. The opportunity to use this influence to promote mentorship is a long-term solution to the growing violence among youth. Studies have proven the power of mentorship. Mentorship increases interpersonal skills, self-confidence, and cognitive and emotional youth development. Up to this point, the mediums used to reach the youth have proven ineffective. Guatemala has thousands of youth pastors and young adults willing to provide lifelong mentorship for at-risk youth. Champions provides the right opportunity to bring the disadvantaged youth and mentors together to forge lasting relationships.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Champions in Action provides one-week soccer camps across Guatemala for underprivileged youth (ages 12-18). Specifically, Champions looks to attract the youth most susceptible to gang participation, drug and alcohol abuse, and violence. It is from the most dangerous areas of Guatemala — or "red zones" — that Champions identifies its youth and mentors, using the passion of the nation: soccer. Utilizing soccer to reach the youth is fundamental to the behavioral change of the youth. Throughout Latin America, soccer is a deep-seated passion that crosses boundaries of race, gender, socio-economic status, and language. Regardless of the conditions in which they live and with whom they play, it is common to find youth playing soccer in the streets of Guatemala on a daily basis. Surrounded by crime, violence, poverty, and hopelessness, youth look to soccer as the only opportunity to exit their dire situation. The youth that attend the camp are connected with a mentor and a youth pastor from a church close to their place of residence. Champions then connects the mentor and youth pastor with multiple other non-profit organizations to provide sustainable resources in supplementing the long-term mentoring relationship with the youth.
About You
Champions in Action
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Champions in Action

Organization Phone


Organization Address

PO Box 49 Bowling Green, OH 43402

Organization Country

, OH, Wood County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, GU

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.

Guatemalan youth represent both the present and future of their nation with over 50% of the population under the age of 18. In many cases, the youth lack the direction and guidance necessary to reach their full potential. Guatemala is saturated with crime, illegal drug trafficking, and heavy gang participation. It is at the epicenter of the gang crisis, with one of the highest homicide rates in the world (48 per 100,000 inhabitants).

Migratory patterns have left many children fatherless and in desperate need of nurturing guidance. Further, there are approximately 360,000 orphans in Guatemala. Understanding the need and the high number of at-risk youth, criminal networks target these youth at an early age as potential members. According to the Guatemalan Ambassador to the US “the need to connect youth to mentors is immense as bodies of organized and juvenile crime attract youth who lack positive mentor relationships.”

Optimistically, the country is filled with churches. After decades of banning members from playing soccer, churches are now seeking ways to reach out and help the six million youth susceptible to gangs, crime, and violence. Understanding this immense opportunity, Champions in Action is a response to the dire need in Guatemala.

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Champions in Action was born out of the vision of Founder and President, Jonathan Jakubowski. It began in 2001, when Jonathan developed a relationship with the Prince of Peace Evangelical Church Association (POPECA) while living in Guatemala for six months. Through his time in the country and the relationships he developed, he saw the need for helping threatened Guatemalan youth. In 2002, Pastor Benjamin Muñoz, a prominent leader of POPECA declared his vision of leveraging the influence of sports to reach Guatemala’s threatened youth.

As a Division 1 collegiate athlete, Jakubowski understood deeply the influence of sports on youth. Jakubowski served as a volunteer speaker and mentor at many youth events in the U.S., while also traveling to Guatemala annually to strengthen his relationships with POPECA leaders and youth. Following his collegiate career, Jakubowski created the model for what would eventually become Champions in Action. In 2008, after several years of developing relationships and researching the feasibility of this model, the organization was officially founded as a 501(C)3 non-profit organization in the U.S. and in 2010 as an official NGO in Guatemala.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Champions in Action has been successful through the foundation by which the organization was developed. It was founded to be an organization for the Guatemalan people by the Guatemalan people. For this reason, primary operations are managed by the Guatemalan National Leader. The Champions in Action U.S. Divisions are set in place to assist and empower the Guatemalan team. These Divisions include: Administration, Development, Marketing, Missions, Sponsorship, and a Prayer Board. The U.S. team works to supply resources, volunteers, and funds as well as cultivating key partnerships. The Guatemalan team carries out operations on the ground and is responsible for the network of mentors and logistics. This bilateral model allows Champions to be sustainable and relevant.

Thus far, there have been three soccer camps reaching over 300 youth with 60 mentors (one mentor per five youth). The mentors play a crucial role in the lives of the youth and are the most critical component of the organization’s success. The mentors’ monthly reports provide the organization with relevant information on the youth’s progress including mentoring activities, participant needs, and discussion notes from the meetings. Champions plans to implement further monitoring and evaluation metrics to measure the long-term impact of the mentorship of behavioral change of the youth.

How many people have been impacted by your project?


How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Increase Champions exposure bilaterally, in the U.S. and Guatemala, through volunteer opportunities.

Task 1

Organize and implement a Volunteer Program for U.S. citizens to participate in a Champions camp to experience cultural diversity, team building, and organizational goals.

Task 2

Expand U.S. donor base to surpass 75 volunteers working in the US towards further funding, advocacy, and marketing.

Task 3

Develop a program that creates an opportunity for at-risk youth from Washington, D.C. to attend a Champions camp and connects them with U.S. based mentors.

Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Implement a rigorous monitoring and evaluation program that enables Champions to measure the impacts of our program on the well being of the youth.

Task 1

Launch the Champions Intern Program in September 2011 to begin collecting data on potential metrics for ongoing monitoring and evaluation on mentorship progress.

Task 2

Collaborate with the US and Guatemala teams to analyze the intern’s findings and discuss the most appropriate and useful metrics to implement.

Task 3

Obtain a comprehensive software program that all team members can utilize for the benefit of mentorship analysis and evaluation of program outcomes.

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Champions sustainability is demonstrated through the long term vision to develop strategic partnerships with major league soccer (U.S.) clubs, Guatemalan soccer clubs, social development NGO’s, multinational businesses, and government. Volunteers currently reside throughout the continental U.S. and through outreach, they will help facilitate a wide variety of partnerships in their appropriate communities. These stakeholders will assist Champions in pursuing the needed financial and networking support. This support will ultimately help Champions expand the mentorship program (by optimizing resources to connect the youth and mentors to educational and job opportunities and English language training programs) and increase the number of at-risk youth served.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

One of the greatest challenges for small nonprofits is the ability to secure long-term funding. Champions has developed a comprehensive fundraising strategy of three tiers: individual donations, government grants, and private partnerships. Implementing this strategy ensures diverse sources of sustainable funding, enabling Champions to make its vision become a reality. Because Champions fundraising takes place in the U.S. but its activities take place in Guatemala, this strategy does not conform to a standard model. Keeping children out of violent, gang activity and helping them become contributing members of their communities is in the interest of the Guatemalan people and in the interest of the U.S., whose foreign policy promotes stability within democratic countries.

Another barrier is implementing evidence-based practice to achieve desired outcomes, as poorly planned mentorship programs have proven unsuccessful. Champions will overcome this challenge through its dependency on the organization’s model. It is roughly based on the structure of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) in the U.S., which has a long track record of proven success in improving long-term outcomes for camp participants. Champions leadership has developed relationships with FCA leaders and received counsel on organizational development. At the same time, Champions has created plans that expand on and adapt the FCA model to better meet the needs of Guatemala’s youth.

Tell us about your partnerships

Champions was created with a focus and dependency upon partnership. To achieve holistic transformation in the lives of the youth, partnership is essential. Champions has forged partnerships in the public, private and nonprofit sectors in both the U.S. and Guatemala.

Champions actively pursues partnerships with Guatemalan churches and NGO’s in Guatemala City to identify eligible mentors and youth. After successfully completing three camps, Champions has worked with over 20 different organizations in fulfillment of its vision.

As an advocate for its mentors and youth, Champions has built many private and public partnerships to offer job opportunities, customized educational development, sport development, and spiritual and emotional development.

Finally, Champions has built relationships with hundreds of individuals, organizations, and churches who have provided over $100,000 of funding to launch the initiative.

Some of the leading partnerships include:
Fondo Unido of Guatemala (United Way), Guatemala Embassy in the U.S., U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, Transactel, Grupo Ceiba, Compassion Guatemala, RTI International, Mis Pequeños Hermanos, Reparando, and POPECA (Prince of Peace Evangelical Church Association).

Explain your selections

Champions has received over $100,000 of direct financial support from its Board of Directors, volunteers, individuals, churches, and other organizations in the U.S.

Champions has received over $10,000 of in-kind donations from multiple non-profits, private companies, and individuals in both the U.S. and Guatemala. This does not include the countless hours donated by volunteers in both countries. In the U.S., Champions is operated entirely by volunteers.

Champions has recently been awarded a grant of $150,000 from Fondo Unido of Guatemala (United Way) to be implemented in October of 2011.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

Champions strives to improve the program through the 12-month vision of implementing a rigorous monitoring and evaluation system. Through data analysis, Champions will continuously adapt to strengthen both the camp experience and mentorship process for the youth, mentors, staff, and volunteers from the U.S. and Guatemala. Evaluating the program will assist the U.S. and Guatemala teams in collaborating to develop newer, innovative approaches to increase both the reach of the program and the impact on the well being of the Guatemalan youth and their communities. Champions will maintain a visible presence through ongoing activities to involve the parents and facilitate mentor-youth relationship development such as guest speakers, tickets to sporting events, lock-ins, and other relevant youth activities.

In addition to its international mission, Champions also looks to impact the lives of Americans through short-term missions opportunities. Champions will provide U.S. citizens the opportunity to experience a developing country, while making an positive impact on some of the most at-risk members of society. Furthermore, Champions is creating specific opportunities for at-risk youth in the U.S. inner cities. This domestic activity enables Champions to serve a dual purpose of investment in the lives of at-risk youth abroad and at home.

Which barriers to health and well-being does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Health behavior change


Limited access to preventative tools or resources


Incentives for unhealthy living

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

By providing a long-term mentoring relationship facilitated by a soccer camp, Champions innovative process aims to change the health behavior and lack of access to mental health resources for at-risk youth. In order to reduce violent, criminal behavior and decrease drug and alcohol abuse, the youth need an incentive to change and escape this lifestyle. Champions will utilize the mentoring process and well-established connections to create economic and educational opportunities and English language training programs for the youth. The holistic approach of transforming the youth psychologically, emotionally, economically, and spiritually is fundamental to tackling these barriers.

How are you growing the impact of your organization or initiative?
Please select up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Other (please specify below)

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

This fall, Champions plans to establish the Champions Soccer League in Guatemala City. This will simultaneously provide the youth currently in the program with ongoing physical activity while also exposing the surrounding families and communities to Champions and the organization’s mission. Additionally, Champions will enhance monthly activities for the youth including speakers, movies, and site visits. The “other” selection is the organization increasing its impact of bilateral exposure, in the US and Guatemala, through volunteer opportunities. Current volunteers have been motivated to assist Champions after experiencing a camp with various tasks such as fundraising and advocacy, which continually strengthens the organization’s capabilities.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Champions has received a full endorsement from Guatemala’s Ambassador to the U.S., his Excellency Ambassador Francisco Villagrán de León. Ambassador Villagrán has served as vice minister of foreign affairs and as ambassador to the United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), Canada, Germany and Norway. According to Ambassador Villagrán, Champions represents an opportunity to invest in an organization that could forever change the trajectory of the lives of Guatemalan youth and in turn the trajectory of their nation. The Ambassador concludes his endorsement urging individuals to partner with Champions to see its potential become reality. This engagement has provided much support by leading to many Guatemalan organizations becoming interested in Champions mission.